[voting] He’s 19. He thought about going to college after graduation, but meager funds made that dream a bleak one. So he did what he thought was right and joined up. Now he’s fighting in war he does not understand. He is your brother, your sister, your friend and neighbor. He puts his life on the line for the vague notions of freedom and democracy.
It’s those very notions that Americans and our enemies have shed blood over for centuries. They are fighting in a war they may or may not agree with so we don’t have to. Nonetheless, they are fighting for a country that treasures its democracy. Our democracy, ever flawed and fractured, makes it possible for college students like us to feel safe, exercise our rights and be heard.
Imagine what would happen if we actually took advantage of that freedom.
In the 2000 election, only 36 percent of eligible young people, ages 18-24, voted. This is down from over 50 percent in 1972.
Why is it that we’re just not voting?
One reason could be the law that requires the addresses on a voter’s driver license and registration card to correspond. This has made voting an arduous task for students in East Lansing. Without an absentee ballot, students who are registered at home can’t vote while away at college. The hassle is enough to discourage some students from voting altogether.
However, in a press conference on Monday, Sept. 20, Sen. Bernero and Sen. Cherry introduced legislation to reclaim student-voting rights. With only days left until the deadline, their proposals will not have any affect on this election, but their message was clear: students have been curtailed access to the ballot box.
“Students of all political stripes have been disenfranchised by a state law that makes it nearly impossible to vote while you are in college,” Nathan Triplett, a political and social relationships senior, said at the press conference.
“We need to change that so more students can participate in our most important obligation as citizens- voting for our local, state and national leaders.”
Katie Morabito, a psychology sophomore, agrees that students are at a voting disadvantage but feels it is important to vote despite of difficulties.
[vote] “Our generation is the one that’s fighting in Iraq,” she said, with heated frusteration. “The leader we choose is in charge of our friends, our peers who are over there. People can’t pick up the phone and call for an absentee ballot? There’s no excuse for that! We’re fighting for democracy and yet, we’re not exercising that. It’s ridiculous!”
Not everyone feels as though students are disenfranchised. Mike Kusner, a mechanical engineering senior, believes that is easy to register to vote on campus because of the online and telephone options in accordance to the station set up at the Union.
National and local groups, such as RHA, have made valiant efforts to register students including setting up registration booths in dorm lobbies and campus hotspots and coordinating programs for students that allow Students for Bush and Kerry to publicly voice their viewpoints.
Student volunteers, like Jon Hoadley of MSU Stonewall Democrats, a chapter of a national Democratic organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, have gone door-to-door in dorms and throughout East Lansing talking to citizens about the elections and registering them to vote.
The deadline to register is quickly approaching. Monday, October 4th, is the last day to register to vote in the 2004 Presidential election.
Students can take their own initiative by visiting their city clerk or any Secretary of State branch in the state. East Lansing’s branch is located one block north of Grand River at 400 Albert Street. To obtain an absentee ballot, send a letter of request to the clerk’s office in the city or township in which you’re registered, stating the reason for being absent or a call for an application.
There has also been an impressive amount of political hype at MSU concerning the election, perhaps not only to get students register but to influence their vote as well.
The Bush twins, Ralph Nader, Senators Virg Bernero and Deb Cherry, and Michael Moore have all made appearances on campus trying to persuade viewpoints, gain support and encourage voting. College Democrats and Republicans, Stonewall Democrats and RHA Rock the Vote, among other organizations, have devoted their time to registering and informing students about the election.
Websites such as www.youthvote.com and www.rockthevote.com call on youth voters to exercise their rights and register. They are also useful to get information concerning the election, candidate platforms and involvement opportunities. At www.vote-smart.org/index.htm, all you have to do is type in the issue you want to learn more about and it will provide you with information.
Students who are not sure if they are registered can type in their name at www.youvote.msu.edu and find out. The website contains information on city and township clerks in Michigan and every candidate running for office. There is also a calendar of events highlighting political activity across campus.
Many media icons and pop stars have also jumped on the voting bandwagon.
The Vote Dammit! Tour featuring the progressive folk-rocker Ani DiFranco and comedian Margaret Cho came to MSU Wednesday Sept. 29 to “promote the vote” through music and comedy. Registration opportunities were set up so students could register during the concert.
[random] Move On PAC’s Vote for Change tour is an anti-Bush campaign that is making its rounds through the swing states, including Michigan on October 3. Pearl Jam and Death Cab for Cutie are performing in Grand Rapids; Dixie Chicks and James Taylor at the Fox Theatre; Bruce Springsteen and REM at Cobo Arena; and Dave Matthews Band, Ben Harper, Jurassic 5 and My Morning Jacket at the Palace. Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt are coming to MSU’s Wharton Center.
When asked if the musical performances will make an impact on society, Amber Morris, an English junior and member of Students for Bush, replied that she thinks it will let the public know that students and young people do care about voting.
With issues on the line this election like the war in Iraq, the economy and the environment students have more reason to vote this November. Organizations like Rock the Vote, and musical tours featuring big names will also raise student interest levels and may result in a larger voter turnout in this election.
Although there may be obstacles for students to overcome, there are no excuses for not being registered by Monday and voting in November.
It’s time to use the sway we have as one-fourth of the voting population. We owe it to that 19-year-old kid with no name. The voting booth is your battleground and casting an educated ballot is your ammunition.

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